Sarah Cannon: Advocate of democratic coaching

W hen Sarah Cannon moved to Columbus in 1992, she only intended to stay for a year.

But now, 24 years later, the vice president at First Financial Bank and financial adviser at Raymond James Financial Services said she has no intentions of leaving Columbus anytime soon.

In fact, Cannon said she knew Columbus had become her home in 1998 when she was offered a banking job in Indianapolis, but turned it down in favor of keeping her job locally.

Since that time, Cannon has made a conscious effort to stay active in the community by sitting on various board and commissions, including the United Way board, the Family Service board and, currently, the Columbus Area Arts Council Board and the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

“I’ve learned so much (through community involvement) that I never would have learned otherwise,” Cannon said. “I have a better understanding of how the city works.”

Cannon’s community involvement first began when she started volunteering for Family Service as a way of connecting with other residents.

“It was a way to meet people,” she said. “It’s tough when you move in single.”

Her involvement has grown into leadership roles both in the community and in her career.

In her professional business roles, Cannon leads her clients through important financial decisions.

In her community roles, she serves as the president of both the arts council board and the redevelopment commission.

“It can be challenging,” she said of her multiple leadership roles.

When she steps into them, Cannon said tries to use an approach she describes as democratic coaching.

“I don’t believe that the best decisions are made by one person,” she said.

The coaching aspect of Cannon’s leadership comes more into play in her day-to-day work, when her job is to guide her clients through their decisions, rather than telling them what to do or making their decisions for them.

Democracy, on the other hand, becomes vitally important when Cannon is serving on public boards and commissions, especially the redevelopment commission, which makes decisions that can have major impacts on the city and its residents.

Being president of the redevelopment commission is the most difficult leadership role she is currently in, she said.

“People have very strong views one way or the other,” Cannon said. “Not everyone is going to be happy.”

Knowing that she is regarded as a community leader weighs heavily on Cannon, who said she takes the responsibility seriously, even if she does not always view herself as a leader among her neighbors.

Some of her most rewarding experiences occur when her leadership succeeds, especially when she leads the people she works with to success, she said.

“The best part is seeing my clients reach their financial goals,” Cannon said.

“They’re just so appreciative.”

Although there are times when serving in the public arena is a difficult task, Cannon said she plans to continue her community involvement for the foreseeable future.

Staying active at work and in the community is a difficult task, but Cannon said she enjoys the challenge of working to better the community where she and her friends and neighbors live and work every day.

“It’s one part wonderful and one part terrifying,” she said.

Cannon bio

Although she was born in Washington, D.C., Sarah Cannon, 69, grew up in Indianapolis.

She studied business at IUPUI and worked with credit unions in Indianapolis for several years before moving to Columbus in 1992.

Cannon became a certified financial planner in 2002 and works with clients at First Financial Bank and Raymond James Financial Services to help them plan for their financial futures.

She has served on several local boards and commissions, including the United Way board, the Family Service board, the Columbus Area Arts Council board and the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, where she has served two separate times under two administrations.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.